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Is polyamory on the horizon in American culture?

Aug 12, 2019

Even before the Supreme Court exercised raw judicial power and wrongly redefined marriage, social conservatives predicted that removing the conjugal (or complementary) basis of marriage would leave marriage open to further redefinition. 

Their warnings were met with scorn by progressives, who believed that conservative fears were unfounded. 

In yet another episode vindicating the predictions of social conservatives, the American Psychological Association has organized what it is calling a “Consensual Non-Monogamy Task Force.” The description of the task force is illuminating in itself: 

The Task Force on Consensual Non-Monogamy promotes awareness and inclusivity about consensual non-monogamy and diverse expressions of intimate relationships. These include but are not limited to: people who practice polyamory, open relationships, swinging, relationship anarchy and other types of ethical, non-monogamous relationships.

Finding love and/or sexual intimacy is a central part of most people’s life experience. However, the ability to engage in desired intimacy without social and medical stigmatization is not a liberty for all. This task force seeks to address the needs of people who practice consensual non-monogamy, including their intersecting marginalized identities.

The definition is rather straight forward and not particularly noteworthy, possibly with the exception of the inclusion of “relationship anarchy” which suggests that any type of relational arrangements is acceptable insofar as it’s consensual. But notice how the task force understands the need to study the issue from an explicitly intersectional framework. This is yet another example where the acid of intersectionality is corroding the ability to render moral judgment. Once a personal “identity” is attached to how someone understands their desires, it becomes almost impossible for secular society to find any possible way to speak condemningly. Intersectionality might as well be a synonym for relativism.

To the broader point, however, in the process of how ideas become mainstream, a mainstream guild studying an issue is surely indicative of what will likely become a more accepted sexual arrangement in the years ahead. Even though it exists only on the margins, I have even heard of a few self-identified “progressive Christians” promoting polyamory as an acceptable practice among Christians.

In the response to the news of this task force, I was interviewed by World Magazine and asked why non-monogamy or polyamory is wrong. The article is available here. With the reporter’s permission, below are my responses to the question of why polyamory is unethical, and thus, sinful.

What is wrong with polyamory from a Biblical view? 

Fundamentally, polyamory violates the principle of monogamy that is established in Genesis, and by implication, in creation itself. When God ordered the marriage covenant, He ordered it as a heterosexual, permanent, and monogamous union. Any example of polyamory or polygamy in Scripture is an aberration due to sin and a settled rejection of God’s original design. While the Bible does portray biblical characters as having multiple wives, it does so only descriptively, not prescriptively. If occurring in a marriage, polyamory is a violation of the seventh commandment (the prohibition against adultery). If occurring in a non-marital “open relationship,” it’s a form of relational adultery as well. Christians are commanded to be romantically exclusive to only one person at a time—a spouse. Expanding the boundaries of marriage will inevitably weaken it. This happens whenever we tamper with God’s design. We are not prone to see this because our society views sexual arrangements as consent-based only, but that’s the deception of sin we’re warned against in Scripture.

Why do you think culture is so taken with polyamory? 

For one, there is little within a progressive worldview that would authoritatively explain why marriage or relationships ought to be limited only to two persons. While I think monogamy is indeed a principle deducible from natural law, it is understandable that a culture that has loosened itself from creational limits, and the moral foundations offered by Christianity, would also skirt the monogamy principle as well. The culture is enamored with polyamory because the culture is obsessed with sexual novelty. What was once taboo becomes easily transgressible when there is no moral foundation to prohibit it.

What is the downfall of polyamory? Who are its victims? 

For one, it’s possible to see polyamory as a violation of the tenth commandment prohibition against covetousness. In a polyamorous relationship, it’s impossible for there not to be some sort of power dynamic that leaves one party in the relationship desiring someone else’s position or privilege. Though our culture is obsessed with “mutuality” as a sexual principle, it is simply not achievable in a polyamorous relationship. This is because God has not ordered romantic relationships in triads. Anyone who buys the mutuality myth will find themselves deceived in the long run. The victims of polyamory are those who practice it, and a culture that has no restraints against it. It may appear innocent and consensual, but biblically speaking, those grounds are not sufficient in themselves to justify polyamory, or ward against its insidious consequences.

Andrew T. Walker

Andrew T. Walker is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics and Apologetics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement. He is also a Research Fellow with the Ethics and Religious... Read More